Willpower doesn’t stand a chance against this cheesy baked spaghetti casserole that’s as much a one-pan wonder as they come. And, even better, it comes smothered with plenty of gooey mozzarella.Angie Zoobkoff

A cheesy baked spaghetti casserole in a cast-iron skillet.

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti

5 / 4 votes
This cheesy baked spaghetti, made with pasta, tomatoes, ground beef or Italian sausage, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano is a true one-pan wonder that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters at your table.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories589 kcal
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 to 12 ounces lean ground beef (85% lean) or bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small (about 5 oz) yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • One (28-ounce) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, chopped in their can with kitchen scissors
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti (uncooked), broken in half
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese (not fresh), shredded


  • Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C) and adjust the rack to the upper third of the oven.
  • In a deep 14-inch (35-cm) ovenproof skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil until shimmering, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef or sausage and cook, breaking up large pieces with a spoon, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Toss in the garlic, onion, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it darkens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, water, and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti and, using a wooden spoon, turn and stir the spaghetti in the liquid until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring to ensure the pasta cooks evenly and doesn’t stick to the skillet.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the Pecorino Romano cheese and then sprinkle the mozzarella on top. Bake until the cheesy baked spaghetti is bubbling and browned in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. If the cheese isn’t browned, you can crank up the broiler and slide it underneath that for about 1 minute.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Lasagna Cookbook

Adapted From


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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 589 kcalCarbohydrates: 59 gProtein: 25 gFat: 27 gSaturated Fat: 11 gMonounsaturated Fat: 12 gCholesterol: 63 mgSodium: 1784 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Anna Hezel. Photo © 2019 Dylan James Ho & Jeni Afuso. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This cheesy baked spaghetti recipe is a great find. Perfect for families who have young toddlers who insist on self-feeding, picky-eaters, and ravenous teenagers (my house!).

When deciding what to make for dinner, I am always looking for recipes that have affordable and accessible ingredients, will please my eaters, and make leftovers. Also, can the recipe be easily doubled and frozen for another evening or to bring to another family on a meal train or a pot-luck party? This checks all the boxes!

I especially like that the dish includes meat but not a full pound. Ahead of time, I would make sure you have a 14-inch oven proof saute pan. I don’t think a 12-inch one would cut it. You need all the space for a pound of pasta and all that liquid.

With 10 minutes of morning prep, the dish can be prepared quickly in 20 minutes in the early evening, cooked on the stove for 12, and in the oven for 12. My only changes would be more seasoning, especially since I chose beef over sausage. I would add more salt and red pepper flakes and more quality pecorino. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive pecorino but the grated supermarket tubs tends to be overly salty.

I also would use crushed tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes. Young picky kids and some adults might freeze at the sight of chunks of tomato.

I was concerned about the amount of additional 5 cups of water. When the final dish went in the oven the pan was quite sloshy but the final dish did bake up nicely and our pasta was cooked perfectly. Husband had 2 helpings and teen had 3. Now I wish I had doubled it!

This was some of the best spaghetti I’ve ever had. Everybody loved it. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly. The spices all worked well together and the rosemary added so much wonderful flavor. I have never used rosemary in spaghetti and now I always will! The cheese on top was delicious!

The recipe is very easy to follow and the ingredients are easy to find if not already in your cupboard. Clean up is a snap with only using one pan.

I do think that the amount of water should be reduced from 5 to 4 cups. Other than that everything else is perfect.

This recipe is the bomb!! I will be putting this in our regular rotation.

When first reading the recipe, it may seem like a lot to do, but it’s really not. Everything goes quickly and smoothly. Although I’m not a fan of chain restaurants, this baked spaghetti reminds me of a dish at a certain chain where they mix spaghetti and lasagna and bake it. Thank goodness there isn’t one near me, but when I visit my parents, I always make them go there just so I can order it! Now I don’t have to! It has the perfect ratio of sauce to noodles to cheese.

I used sweet Italian sausage and although delicious, I found myself thinking this would be just as good with no meat, making it a very nice vegetarian option served with a side salad. It’s just my husband and myself, so we ate this for two dinners and a few lunches and neither of us were tired of it!

Count me in for any one pot(skillet) meal. This baked spaghetti was an easy winner with my family, add a side salad and you are set for an easy week night meal.

I used 8 ounces of ground beef, which seemed a bit scant for the size of the dish. I would suggest using a full pound of meat to make the dish more substantial or using an Italian sausage to add a bit more Italian flavor. If using italian sausage ,the meat seasonings would already be enough to bring own flavor to dish.

This is good, good comfort food and therefore I highly recommend it. It’s a really rich, buttery, velvety spaghetti (the noodles really swell from cooking in the tomato sauce) with a lot of cheese on top! I missed a bit of the crispy top that comes with most spaghetti casseroles, however.

I have a cast iron skillet I could have tried to use but I wasn’t sure if it was deep enough for the dish to hold all the water and tomatoes, so my only other ovenproof alternative was my dutch oven. The sides are deep but this worked fine. Loved how everything could be done in the one dish—it made clean up for a weekday easy. I would probably add a little more ground meat in next time I make it. I also think I might try to broil the top a little at the end next time to get a little more crust. All and all, though, this was delicious and I will definitely make again.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is outrageously good! I’ve made it for my nephew’s family (with 2 grade schoolers) and several friends to help ease the ‘pandemic, what’s for dinner) stress. Everyone LOVES it and will stay forever in my recipe ‘rotation’.
    I couldn’t seem to get the amount of water quite right so I made this simple tweak to the recipes and (I think) it’s pure perfection.
    I boil the spaghetti noodles while cooking the other ingredients then combine all of ingredients. Top with cheese then pop in the oven to brown. Yum!!!

    1. Thanks, Deb! We’re delighted to hear that you and your family enjoy this so much. Thanks so much for the tip; we’ll have to give that a try.

  2. 5 stars
    Just put this together on a chilly evening. Fantastic, has that true old-fashioned Italian-American spaghetti flavor.

    A few things:
    ~ Halved recipe, exactly. Or would have eaten it all at once.

    ~ Cooked it all up in an All-Clad pan, but decided to slide the spaghetti into a heavy 9 x 13 stainless roasting pan in the end because didn’t want to subject All-Clad to 425 F, Also, this enabled the halved recipe to spread nicely in the 9 x 13 pan, ensuring some crusty edges. My 9 x 13 pan has gently sloped sides, so surface is perhaps a little smaller than yours.

    ~ Used one large link (nearly 5 oz) of butcher’s mild Italian sausage.

    ~ Added liberal red pepper flakes. Also more garlic, roughly chopped.

    ~ Tomatoes: Whole Foods 365 fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. Since I was halving recipe, I only used half a 28-oz can: i.e., just 14 oz. Good choice.

    ~ Pecorino: used high-quality Fulvi Pecorino, worth it, and grated it somewhat coarse so it would not vanish when mixed in with the spaghetti.

    ~ Final cheese topper: shredded about 4 or 5 oz fresh mozzarella by hand, moisture was not a problem in the baking. Also, sprinkled a very judicious amount of grated Parmesan over the top with the mozzarella. Didn’t want too cheesy or it would drown the nice spaghetti edges. And yes, did turn on broiler for last couple of minutes to brown a bit.

    ~ Used Ronzoni spaghetti. Best old-style NYC Italian choice.

    ~ Ashamed to say I had three helpings. The diet begins tomorrow, right after I have reheated leftover spaghetti for lunch.

    My only regret is waiting this long to make this Leite’s recipe. Thank you!.

    1. You’re welcome, Nadine! And thank you for letting us know how much you enjoyed it and what you did to make it perfect for you. Can’t wait to hear what you try next.